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State of Massachusetts takes over Holyoke district

State of Massachusetts takes over Holyoke district

State education commissioner will appoint a receiver to run the academically underperforming district.

The state of Massachusetts is taking over the academically struggling Holyoke school system.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8-3 on Tuesday to designate Holyoke Public Schools a chronically underperforming ("Level 5") district. The vote gives Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester the authority to appoint a receiver to run the district.

"I approach receivership with a profound sense of responsibility to the youth and city of Holyoke," Chester says. "In light of the persistent and pervasive underperformance of the district, it simply is not defensible to leave on the table the tools and authorities that receivership provides."

That receiver will have all the powers of the superintendent and school committee and will report directly to Chester. It will be an individual or a non-profit group with a record of success in improving low-performing schools or districts or the academic performance of disadvantaged students.

After the decision, Holyoke School Superintendent Sergio Paez issued a statement: "We are committed to the important work that needs to be done and our students are our primary priority. This will not change! The amazing work that we initiated 20 months ago is not going to be compromised. I'm committed to actively working during this transition and I'm going to make sure all the initiatives and great work we have done so far is continued."

The state board says its level of concern about the 5,600-student Holyoke district grew following a February 2015 District Review Report that cited persistent and pervasive underperformance. Student achievement and growth in Holyoke are among the lowest in the state overall and for student subgroups, including students with disabilities and English language learners.

In addition, the district's on-time graduation rate is the lowest of any K-12 district in the state, and the dropout rate is one of the highest.

Chester is expected to name a receiver later this spring, and the receiver would assume authority of the district in summer 2015.

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